It’s happened to most of us. You awaken suddenly at night from a loud clap of thunder as a storm passes by. But why is thunder much louder at night than during the day?

When a thunderstorm produces thunder sounds in the afternoon, the sound can travel in many different directions. Down, out and even up above the thunderstorm. The sound escapes into the atmosphere very easily. There’s a difference with the decibel levels of thunder at night and it’s all about what’s happening in the upper atmosphere.

The heating from the day will heat the entire atmosphere. At night, the atmosphere always cools from the ground up. This leaves a warmer layer in the upper atmosphere until the next day’s sun heats the ground and then we warm from the ground up. When we have a thunderstorm at night, sound bounces off of that warm layer and has nowhere else to go but down and to our ears. This is why it’s much louder at night. So loud that it can shake us awake!

Think of being at a concert. When you’re outdoors the sound can escape into the atmosphere. But when you at a concert inside, that sound bounces off the ceiling and the walls and can be much louder.